IMO the most important part of being a REAL music fan is knowing how to label a band with the proper genre. For example, there is literally nothing that makes me more angry than some entry-leveller who calls a band pop punk when they are obviously POWER POP!
If you haven’t heard the term before, that’s because it’s typically used for dinosaur bands from 60s-80s (the kind of stuff that people in their 40s talk about on VH1 Classic). These angry oldfags will glare and tell you that power pop is dead (of course, the specific date that it ‘died’ will usually correspond to when they personally lost interest in it). Like most things oldfags say, this is false.
The truth is that it’s far from dead. In fact, the genre is healthier than ever, and POWER POP 3.0 is the best version yet! But first, a quick step through the old days of power pop…
POWER POP 1.0 aka ‘REAL POWER POP’
When oldfags talk about ‘REAL power pop,’ they are talking about stuff like Rick Springfield, Cheap Trick, The Cars, and Smithereens- I’ll call this era power pop 1.0. That stuff is OK I guess but lettuce be reel: it sounds like shit to anyone under 50. Maybe if they re-recorded this stuff with modern technology it would be acceptable, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same story as every other genre: the bands doing it today are just better at it than the old ones were.
POWER POP 2.0
Weezer are a perfect example of power pop 2.0: super catchy, giant hooks and pop structure, but crunchy guitars that sound just a little punk. It’s easy to see how power pop 2.0′s combination of heaviness and melody with synths is the blueprint for today’s power pop and easycore bands. The influence of Weezer in particular has really come full circle, with Rivers Cuomo writing a song for power pop 3.0 band ALL TIME LOW (although the song is so bad that ATL insist it’s a ‘parody’).
There were quite a few other sweet 2.0 bands like Eve 6, Fountains Of Wayne, SR-71, and Jimmy Eat World, but plenty of people have already talked about them. I’m going to focus on what’s much more exciting to me: POWER POP 3.0!
POWER POP 3.0: NU-PUNK
In a nutshell, power pop 3.0 is what happens when you get kids who grew up on New Found Glory, Blink-182 and Green Day (ie bands who were more or less real, DIY punk bands at one point), but also loved N Sync and Britney Spears. This is the first generation of kids who were allowed to like both, and power pop 3.0 is essentially that: pop-punk meets top 40.
The other defining element of power pop 3.0 happened behind the scenes, but is probably the most significant: the rise of producers/outside songwriters. It would have been grounds for execution if a 90s pop-punk band admitted to using an outside songwriter, but it’s pretty much a given these days that Warped Tour “pop punk” (aka power pop 3.0) bands get more than a little help from producers in the songwriting/arranging dept. Try searching for your favorite 3.0 bands on ASCAP or BMI and see who’s credited with ‘co-writing’ their material!
You might as well call power pop 3.0 SAMNSLUGGOCORE, because producers Sam & Sluggo are the brains behind a zillion of the genre’s biggest bands. Their credits include Cobra Starship, Hey Monday and All Time Low as well as mnstrm pop like Katy Perry, Kelly Rowland and Mandy Moore.
My favorite Sam & Sluggo joint is STEREO SKYLINE, not to be confused with all the other Myspace power pop bands with “stereo” or “skyline” in their name (Show Me The Skyline, Stereo Shout Out, etc). When it comes to neon-fueled, Warped Tour power pop for tweens who shop at the mall, it just doesn’t get any better than this!!
To me, FOREVER THE SICKEST KIDS are the definitive 3.0 band. Nobody does this super-polished, candy-coated take on pop-punk better than FTSK. Whether you like them or not, put on some good headphones and listen to the layered arrangements on “Underdog Alma Mater,” it’s seriously ridiculous (listen to the 320k version on Spotify, Youtube doesn’t do it justice). And it better be good, because these guys have some of the best producers in the business behind them: Matt Mahaffey (Hellogoodbye, Pink, Beck), Matt Squire (Good Charlotte, 3OH3, Taking Back Sunday) and their secret weapon Geoff Rockwell (u jelly that I have exclusive MP3s of the demo Fight Fair did with him??). It’s really a shame they never got as popular as their label intended, because with this many big names involved I can’t imagine they’ll ever recoup.
BOYS LIKE GIRLS are another great piece of work from Sam & Sluggo (not be confused with fellow Sam & Sluggo artists FRIDAY NIGHT BOYS- I feel like they should have just combined them into one band). Also, is it just me or does Ashley Tisdale look especially jewy in this video?? No care, wood smash in a heartbeat (I’d just try to pretend the horns weren’t there).
Some might say that Disneypunk is its own genre, but I’d call them kissing cousins (like brutal death and slam). I mean, it’s all the same producers writing the material, and would anybody even notice if they gave this song to FTSK instead of Demi and Selena?? (Side note: I’m not usually one to complain about this but MY GOD THESE FAKE DRUMS)
Are you ready for me to get into some power pop 3.0 deep cuts?? Some obscure, white label test press shit that only the hardest of the hardcore 3.0 fans will know?? How about the ultimate example of the “bands with ‘stereo’ in their name” boom of 2008, STEREOS. I guess these guys won some Canadian version of Making The Band or whatever, which explains why nobody in the US has ever heard of them. Apparently they are still around, for some reason.
Speaking of deep cuts, what ever happened to MERCY MERCEDES?? Back in 2009 I thought they had a decent shot at getting big but wow, they sure didn’t. The pinnacle of their career was opening for Cash Cash on one tour, and in what can only be described as kicking a band when they’re down, they even got their Wikipedia entry deleted. Ouch :(
Last but not least we have THE SUMMER SET, featuring my power pop waifu Jess Bowen. I’ll be honest, they only have 1.5 good songs (written by the same guy as all the Jonas Brothers hits), but that’s more than enough for me to fall in love <3 U JESS XOXO
What is your favorite POWER POP 3.0 band?? Why do people call these bands pop punk, when they aren’t the slightest bit punk??? Why do oldfags think ‘power pop is dead’ when it’s more popular than ever???? Would little girls be bummed if they found out none of these bands write their own songs?